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Undocumented Caribbean expats at greatest risk of COVID job loss – Yvette Clarke

Published:Wednesday | April 15, 2020 | 12:29 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer

Caribbean-American Congress­woman Yvette D. Clarke has expressed concern for the thousands of undocumented immigrants living in the United States amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The United States has become the epicentre of COVID-19 over the last month, recording more than 25,000 deaths and 611,000 infections.

“Unfortunately, the CARES Act that was passed in the House in the United States Congress and signed by President Donald Trump some two or three weeks ago did not make provisions [for people] who do not have a social-security number. Their access to direct benefit and support is extremely limited,” Clarke said in a virtual panel discussion hosted by the Jamaican American Youth Alliance (JAYA) yesterday.

The emergency aid deal is valued at US$2 trillion.

“We are working right now to get clarification on whether tax ID numbers may be used in lieu of the social-security number,” she said.


Clarke, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York, said that the Trump administration has continued with a “mean-spirited, anti-immigrant campaign which keeps all our communities at risk”.

These families, she said, are at risk of unemployment and food insecurity.

Families have been relying on clergy to be a lifeline for the diaspora and for those who do not belong to congregations, their help has been coming from non-profit organisations.

“We are finding ways to get funding to employers of companies with 500 or less employees, sole proprietors, people who are in the gig economy, people who are self-employed, or they own a mama-and-papa establishment.”

Clarke said when all these employees are combined, “that is the US workforce”.

Various diaspora groups have come to the aid of Jamaicans living, working, and studying in the US.

Northeast USA representative of Global Jamaica Diaspora, Dr Karren Dunkley, shared that expatriates have been balancing educational pursuits and mental health.

For students in kindergarten up to grade 12: “There is a huge inequity in terms of access to technology to keep them connected to teaching and learning. In terms of our college young people, we find that many of them have still maintained the structure around logging in to their online classes,” Dunkley explained.

Meanwhile, consul general of Jamaica to New York, Alsion Wilson, said that her office has been receiving frantic calls from many Jamaicans enquiring about their visa status and possible dates of return to the island.

Wilson also noted that a toll-free number will be issued in short order to field calls from those with queries.